The Oakland Raiders have concluded a 2-2 preseason that had plenty of ups and downs. However, some might consider that a marked improvement over past exhibition campaigns that saw mostly downs. It was supposed to be the start of QB Matt Schaub‘s redemption, but ended up being the coming out party for rookie Derek Carr.
With Schaub – after a very uninspiring preseason performance – being exiled to the bench, and Carr taking the reins of the franchise, the excitement and expectations surrounding the Raiders are higher than they’ve been in a decade. How will it all play out? Only time will tell, of course, but here are some thoughts on how it might play out…
Given the fact that the Raiders are facing the toughest schedule – and travel itinerary – in the NFL this season, people around the league – meaning people who are not members of the Raider Nation – aren’t expecting much. Most of the so-called experts and media talking heads have Oakland pegged to win four or maybe five games this season. Most power ranking lists have the Raiders either at or near the bottom of the league. But how realistic is that assessment for this season’s squad and how much if it is based on the past decade of futility?
We’ll find out in just a few short days.
The Raiders open up the season on the east coast – a time zone they’ve lost their last 12 contests in – against Geno Smith and the New York Jets. While this game won’t define the season, it will help establish the tone for the Raiders. If they can score a convincing victory in Week 1, it will give a huge boost of confidence to the rookie QB and the rest of the squad. And they have a legitimate shot of doing just that.
With the Jets painfully thin at the cornerback spot after inexplicably not drafting any, and losing their top two corners to injury, they’ll be relying on converted safeties and castoffs from other teams to man their defensive backfield. It seems like the ideal situation for Carr to get his first taste of live NFL action in a meaningful situation – and the ideal situation to notch his first win as a pro.
The following week will see them hosting the Houston Texans – a team with a good share of their own problems. If the line can keep Jadeveon Clowney and J.J. Watt off of Carr and give him some time, he has the opportunity to pick a weak secondary apart and lead the team to another win. Week 3 sees a big obstacle in front of them in the form of Tom Brady and the New England Patriots. Though they are an improved club, the Patriots might be a little too much for them at this point. Week 4 sees Oakland playing a home game against the Miami Dolphins – in London, England. The Raiders will give Miami more than they can handle and they have a very realistic shot at entering their bye week with a 3-1 mark.
Week 6 will be their first divisional test against the San Diego Chargers. The two teams should match up well and the Raiders can conceivably pull off an important divisional win. Oakland will then match up with the Arizona Cardinals and Cleveland Browns before squaring off against the defending world champion Seattle Seahawks. We’ll see if Carr can work the same magic against them that he did in the preseason finale in which he led the Raiders on four TD drives in four posessions – two against the vaunted Legion of Boom.
It doesn’t get any easier after that as next up will be the Denver Broncos followed by the Chargers, Kansas City Chiefs, St. Louis Rams, San Francisco 49ers, Chiefs, Buffalo Bills – and they’ll close out the season with a date against the Broncos.
They have a tough road ahead to be sure, but a 10-6 record – and a possible playoff berth – is not out of the question for the Raiders. If the defense can tighten things up, and Carr can continue the electric play he flashed against the Seahawks, the sky really is the limit for these Raiders.